The annual Perseid meteor shower will reach its peak tonight (Aug. 12), but the “shooting stars” will have some competition with the full Sturgeon Moon lighting up the night sky, too.
The Perseid meteor shower — one of the strongest annual meteor showers, occurring between July 14 and Sept. 1 — reaches its peak overnight on Aug. 12 and Aug. 13. Unfortunately, that coincides with this month’s full moon, which officially reached its full phase last night (Aug. 11).
August’s full Sturgeon Moon, which also happens to be a supermoon — a phenomenon that occurs when the moon makes its closest approach to Earth at the same time that it’s full and therefore appears especially large and bright — will remain nearly full tonight, washing out the view of the Perseids’ peak.
Related: Perseid meteor shower generates early “shooting stars” (video)
The Perseids occur every year when Earth passes through the debris remnants, or bits of ice and rock, left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed close to Earth in 1992. The Perseids reach their peak when Earth passes through the densest and dustiest area of the comet’s trail.
The meteor shower is named after the constellation that the meteors appear to come from, the northern constellation Perseus. Most years, skywatchers can expect to see between 60 and 100 meteors per hour under clear, dark skies.
However, this year’s viewing conditions are far from optimal, with the bright light from the full moon expected to drastically reduce the number of visible meteors to between 10 and 20 per hour, at best, according to a statement (opens in new tab) from NASA.
If you miss the peak of the Perseids, the meteor shower will remain active the rest of the month. As the moon wanes and becomes less bright, skywatchers will have an even better chance of seeing meteors in the days following the shower’s peak.
You don’t need any special equipment to get a good view of the Perseids — just a dark viewing spot away from artificial light. You’ll also want to give your eyes about 15 to 20 minutes to adjust to the darkness and ensure you don’t miss any of the meteors that may pass overhead. The best time to view the Perseids is between midnight and dawn when Perseus rises above the horizon.
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